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Bundesliga back at full capacity as DFL announces losses

April 1, 2022

Football stadiums in Germany returned to full capacity this weekend after two years of pandemic-related restrictions. Though risks remain, it is good news for clubs who have suffered losses in their matchday revenue.

Dortmund fans ahead of their game vs. RB Leipzig
Dortmund's home ground was full for their fixture vs. RB LeipzigImage: Martin Meissner/AP/picture alliance

While  Borussia Dortmund couldn't get the result they wanted against RB Leipzig, the club was able to open its doors to fans again following months of COVID-19 restrictions that kept fans away.

"Our captain, Marco Reus, has been walking through the dressing room with an enchanted smile for days. We can look forward to a great atmosphere and want to use that to our advantage," Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans Joachim-Watzke said ahead of Saturday's game against RB Leipzig.

Before kick off, Dortmund's team and staff went over to The Südtribüne, the famous southern stands nicknamed the Yellow Wall, and applauded the 24,000 standing fans. Erling Haaland had a big smile on his face.

"In these 24 months, it was very difficult to keep in touch between the club and the fans," Watzke said. "For this reason alone, Saturday will be a special day for us," adding that the thought gave him "goosebumps."

The Westfalenstadion, the biggest football stadium in Germany, returned to its full 81,365 capacity for the first time since February 29, 2020, as Germany lifts pandemic restrictions. The majority of those fans will have wished for a different outcome as Dortmund lost 4-1.

Champions Bayern Munich will welcome back 75,000 fans to the Allianz Arena when they host Augsburg. The last time they had a full stadium was November 2021.

In the capital, Union Berlin sold out their 22,012 tickets for the home game against Cologne at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei. The last time they played a full capacity game was on November 20, 2021 against local rivals Hertha BSC.

The new rules mean that Hertha would be able to sell out the 74,475 seats of the Olympic Stadium for the return leg of the derby on April 9.

Union Berlin fans at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei gold up team scarves, a banner
Union Berlin will welcome 22,012 fans to the Stadion an der Alten FörstereiImage: Andreas Gora/dpa/picture alliance

Empty stadiums and lost revenue

Like most of Europe's top clubs, German clubs have seen a loss in revenue from matchday ticket sales and hospitality under the pandemic restrictions.

On April 1, the German Football League (DFL) announced a 95% loss of revenue in ticket sales for the 2020-21 season, with teams in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 seeing their match day revenue fall from "roughly €650 million in 2018-19 to only €35.5 million last season."

"Over the past two years, the pandemic has already had a dramatic economic impact on the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. Sadly, it is also affecting the current season — primarily because, once again, the stands often had to remain empty," new DFL CEO Donata Hopfen said.

Dortmund bore the biggest brunt of the impact as the Westfalenstadion endured the worst loss during the period. The club declared that ticketing revenues fell from €44.7 million in 2018/19 to €0.5 million in 2020/2021, a 99% dropoff.

But the club is looking on the bright side as the fans return. "You can tell that people are still interested in Borussia Dortmund," said CEO Watzke. "I'm very happy about that, even if it will take time for things to return to normal."

Mass gatherings risk further spread

Since Germany is not entirely coronavirus free, the return of full-capacity stadiums still carries a risk of spreading the virus.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, there were more than 1.3 million cases of COVID-19 recorded in Germany over the past week, with 129,695 deaths in the country since the pandemic started in March 2020.

Federal states are still able to make their own rules in the case of new mass infections, but large lockdowns are not expected to be implemented.

Though many clubs are still insisting on 3G rules, meaning that returning fans must have been vaccinated, tested or recovered — in addition to wearing masks in zones where safe distancing is not achievable — at least three Bundesliga clubs are scrapping all restrictions this weekend: Union Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg.

la/mf (SID/AP)